Damon Stoudamire gains steam as candidate for Oregon State head coaching job

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona assistant Damon Stoudamire has always wanted to be a head coach, but his candidacy could come down to his own decision.

Damon Stoudamire and his Twitter handle that includes the 503 area code must consider the Oregon State Beavers head coach opening. When he jumped from an assistant position with the Memphis Grizzlies and broke into the college ranks under Memphis Tigers head coach and fellow Wildcat alum Josh Pastner in 2011, it was only the beginning.

"For me it's a step in the right direction to where I want to be, you know, just, say 10 years from now," Stoudamire told me in 2011. "Ultimately, I want to be a head coach."

So here he finds himself having quickly moved up the grapevine.

Stoudamire, at 41 years old, is young enough to connect with players, has the credibility of a successful NBA career in his back pocket and first made himself known as a hard-hitting recruiter for Pastner. Sean Miller went to bat for his assistant by telling the Arizona Daily Star's Bruce Pascoe that he assumes Stoudamire, having grown up in the Portland area, is a candidate to replace former Beavers coach Craig Robinson.

"In my mind he's a home run hire for anybody but for somebody in that region, I can certainly see they'd be interested in him in a big way," Miller told Pascoe.

According to CBS Sports and The Oregonian, Stoudamire will have to fend off some well-established coaches as he's considered for the job.

Ben Howland, after sitting out a year following his long UCLA tenure, would be an intriguing name who has nothing to lose in taking on a rebuilding project. Oregon State players have asked OSU athletic director Bob De Carolis to bring back UCLA assistant David Grace, a strong recruiter who was a favorite assistant under Robinson. Former NBA coaches with Oregon ties, Terry Porter and Lionel Hollins, are also in the mix. Porter, who struggled in two brief NBA head coaching stints, wants the job badly, according to The Oregonian.

But Stoudamire might bring the best of both worlds. Like Howland and Grace, he has the recruiting skills and experience as a college coach. Like Porter or Hollins, he'll bring an NBA mindset and at a younger age will be able to relate with college players.

If Oregon State decides to take a chance on Stoudamire, it could end up well. Yet, then the Beavers must fight perception. Oregon State hasn't had success since Gary Payton played there, and there's hardly any sense of basketball tradition left.

"Our younger sort of student fans, they barely know Gary Payton," Robinson said during this past season.

Oregon State is not an appealing job -- Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News called it a "dumpster fire" -- and that could make it more difficult on Stoudamire to succeed if he even decides to accept the head coaching gig, should it be offered to him.

"My frustration isn't at a level that's intolerable yet," Robinson said in February during a Pac-12 teleconference call, when asked about the growing pressure to win in Corvallis, Ore. "It's been a process for us, and knowing how hard it's been to get to where we've gotten to now."

Robinson finished off his few weeks of the regular season on the defensive.

He still believed in himself it seemed, but at the same time he was quick to point to the state of the program he inherited -- and he said it was still a struggle to change the culture and the national attitude toward his program. That included from within, convincing his own players what the expectations were, and nationally, where the recruiting was tough.

"The depth of which the program had gotten to was probably worse than I expected," Robinson said. "When I was looking at this position, I looked back and got about as far as when the last regime got to the NIT. I didn't look further back in trying to assess why they'd been so bad for so long. That was a little bit surprising when I got here and found out. Other than that, I think it's just been a matter of figuring out how to get good talent to come to Corvallis (rather than) the other more urban locales in the Pac-12. We've been able to do a little bit about it, now we want to do more about it."

Robinson of course didn't get that chance.

For a coach like Stoudamire, who might have more to lose by failing than a more established coach, weighing this will go like so: Does taking a Pac-12 rebuilding job with so much turnover -- the entire starting lineup is gone from last year's squad -- make sense? Would aiming for a mid-major opening in a basketball-rich place a la Archie Miller at Dayton make more sense for a first head coaching job? What's the risk? And what's the likelihood another major conference opportunity comes about where Stoudamire is a top-3 target?

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